Our man in Finland, Par Odin Lothman, Bosun aboard the Farley Mowat, is a genuine Norseman. Recently, Par attended a meeting of fishing representatives from the European Community. He stirred up a bit of controversy by wearing his Sea Shepherd crew shirt to the meeting. The Canadian and Norwegian representatives were visibly angered. Par described the meeting, as a usual gathering of greedy fishermen who reject any scientific research that even suggests that over fishing is the problem. They do accept the research if it gives them higher quotas and/or blames the decline of fish on whales or seals.
The fishermen dismissed local biologists, not in the employment of the industry or government with contempt.
One old fisherman said that he had been fishing for thirty years and some kid with a biology degree should not be telling him, or any other fisherman about fishing and fish expressed the attitude.
According to these know-it-all fishermen, the problem is simple - "The whales and seals eat all the fish. To save the fish and feed people we need to kill more seals and whales." The fishermen are armed with government and industry studies used to back up their case, and to demonstrate the economic benefits of increasing the slaughter of seals.
The Norwegian representative, Lars Walloe of Norway, added whales to the agenda and all the fishermen of course agreed that whales were a problem.
Par also reported that the fishermen in the Baltic are trying to manipulate the European Community to allow for increases in fish takes. The fishermen are now claiming the "cultural heritage to fish in the remote areas of the archipelago." This allows them to apply for European Community money to subsidize the exploitation of "resources" in the remote regions of the Baltic.
This cultural heritage argument is ridiculous of course, but what it means is that the fishermen can apply for funds to employ more fishermen even if there are fewer fish. This subsidization turns an uneconomic activity into a subsidized over-exploitation of diminishing fish populations.
This decision allows the fishermen to fish out the remainder of the juvenile cod and to fish on herring that is banned in the rest of Europe because of unacceptably high levels of PCB's.
According to Kim Jordas, chairman of the Finnish Fishermen's Central Organisation, "Seals are currently the single biggest threat against pelagic fishing and the survival of our fishing culture."
Par reports that it's the same story as everywhere else - declining fish populations are being blamed on scapegoats like seals, dolphins, and whales.
He reported that Norwegian representative Lars Walloe and the Canadian representative Jean-Guy Beaudoin were pushing strongly for increased seal kills.
According to Lars Walloe, "Three seal-killing freezer ships are being built right now to handle the demands of the sealers to supply seal products to a growing market." There has been no evidence of a "growing market" outside of Canadian and Norwegian government statements, although Canada is seeking out these international markets. The sealers are earning money through government subsidies.
Walloe also added,"Each Minke whale we kill gives 5 tons more fish to the Norwegian fishermen. With such low catches as we are experiencing right now we cant afford to feed such a big population of whales. Of course we should have whales and seals in our oceans but we can not afford to have to many."
The Canadian fishery representative, Jean-Guy Beaudoin said in his speech, "We are working on new products for the use of seal products and there is a huge demand from the Asian market. We estimate that the global climate change will have a positive effect for the seal hunt and we must be ready for that."
This last comment is very strange considering that global warming is bad news for the ice seals and declining ice floes have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of baby seals over the last few years.
Par attempted to speak with Beaudoin, but the Canadian representative refused to speak with him because he was wearing a Sea Shepherd crew shirt.
Par also reported that there is a big debate on the Aland Islands over the hunting of migratory birds in spring. Since the Aland islands is a good feeding place during the autumn and spring migration, and the most convenient place for the birds to cross the Baltic, there are an incredible number of birds in the area twice a year.
There are unfortunately many hunters that shoot birds in the name of "tradition". Finland is now a part of the European Community and it won't be long before hunters throughout Europe will demand the same "traditional" hunting rights that the Fins have because what is allowed in one European Community country should be allowed in all the other member states.